Vacation, Huffington, and a WINNER!

Once upon a time, I wrote blog posts every day.

EVERY DAY!

I don’t know how I did that, honestly. Life was different then. The kids were younger, most of them still napped, and our days were less dictated by sports and activities, and growing social calendars.

All that to say, I haven’t had much time lately to write. Not writing is hard for a writer. I feel like I’ve been neglecting a part of myself.

baylor

What I haven’t neglected, however, is some sweet time with this family of mine. We are in Texas for the week, holed up in a hotel (six people in one hotel room isn’t exactly a vacation, but I can’t find a better word for it…torture? No, that’s not right) while our daughter does a gymnastics camp.

Despite the cramped quarters, we’ve had some fun, and are making good memories with friends and with one another. And my brain is relishing in a bit of free time.

But it hasn’t been a totally work-free week! Before leaving, I submitted a blog post to The Huffington Post. It finally went live today. This was my response to the terrible attacks in Nice last week.

How History Can Help Our Fight Against ISIS

KS-PostDivider

Now, moving on to the GOOD news!

like a river - 400

A winner was drawn this morning for the Like a River From Its Course giveaway and blog tour! Congratulations to Miranda Marchese! My publicists from Litfuse Publicity Group will be in touch via email with details on how to claim your prize. You can also email your mailing address to info {at} litfusegroup {dot} com. Congrats!

Thank you to everyone who entered, and who helped spread the word. It’s been fun to see so many new faces around Twitter and Facebook!

If you haven’t ordered your book yet, do so today! I’m blown away by the reviews and responses I’ve receive from readers. This book was a labor of love, and it holds a large piece of my heart, so hearing the impact it’s leaving on readers has blessed me so much.

Order Like a River From Its Course now and find out why people are calling it the best book they’ve ever read!

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying some sweet down time with family here in the middle of summer!

 

The Secret Garden

I was young, maybe nine or ten, when I first saw The Secret Garden. Upon finishing the film, I immediately traipsed out into the Wisconsin woods behind our home and looked for the perfect tree in which to sit and read. The trees were romantic and mysterious then. I wanted to soak up the rustle of the woods and see what kind of magic I could find.

secretgarden

I grew up, and we moved away from Wisconsin. No longer did I have the whimsy of the forest in which to explore my imagination, but the fanciful longing for a secret garden has never really left me. And I still find a sturdy branch the best place to read a book.

In college, I found a great tree with a low lying limb tucked back in Waco’s Cameron Park. On pretty spring days, before the oppressive Texas heat threatened to melt off my face, I’d go to that tree with school books, certain that studying in that place would result in all A’s.

There may have been something to my theory, because my last two semesters of school I landed on the Dean’s List.

And now here I am, living in Florida, surrounded by beautiful trees, but not one worthy of a good climb. I still wish for a secret garden to call my own – a place where dreams come alive in the quiet serenity of nature.

Granted, I’d probably need a gardner to tend to that magical space as I’ve proven to be much better at writing about gardens than growing them.

Dreaming is possible without a garden, though. Sometimes I still find myself lost in a moment of daydreaming, although those moments are fewer and farther between now than they were before. Life has simply grown too noisy and busy. And it makes me a little sad that my kids aren’t growing up with the whimsy of the trees.

The last couple of weeks have found me in a funny place: Often sad for no reason, and terribly overwhelmed in situations that don’t normally phase me. I’m blaming hormones, the end of summer, and a lack of quiet.

The funny thing, however, is that I don’t want to be alone. I want my husband and children with me, which seems to contradict my longing for quiet spaces. I long to escape, yes, but to a place where there are no sports, no schedules, and no electronics to distract us.

I want to kick those kids outside and see them explore.

I want them to climb a few trees.

School starts in two weeks, and while I feel a sigh of relief escape my lips as I type that sentence, I also feel a small pang of regret and sadness, because it’s over. One more under our belts, and life keeps trucking along without sign of slowing down.

I don’t have a secret garden in which to sit and reflect, and the quiet spaces I long for are likely mythological. But I’ve discovered over the years that these moments of overwhelmed a lot-ness (totally a word) are not the be all-end all.

There may not be magical stretches of quiet time, but there are slivers of time that are magical enough.

We kept all electronics off last night, and the kids went for a swim as the sun sank down below the horizon. I sat in a chair next to the pool, and I just watched them play.

I listened to the hallowed sounds of their laughter, taking in all the sounds, none of them quiet, yet the entire event feeling like a hushed song of praise. We were in the moment, all of us. Them in the pool, and me taking it in, and I knew that this was the moment I was longing for.

A moment to just be free.

A moment that says “This is enough.”

A moment in which I could breathe.

I was happy last night, despite my lack of a tree, a book, and a magical garden. Maybe someday there will be a time and a place for that sort of living again. Today, though – today was for popsicles and blue waters. Today was for giggles and flips in the pool. Today was magical with just a touch of whimsy.

Turns out the secret garden was here with me all along.

Tell me moms – how are you doing as summer winds down and school days ramp back up? How are you holding up? 

Preparing to Launch

“I don’t know how you’re doing it all.”

I’ve heard that phrase over and over since I announced that I was having not one, but two books published next year. And homeschooling on top of that. And my reply is always the same.

Me neither!

(And then I secretly wonder if I should have said Me either, because now that I’m all I’M A WRITER WITH BOOKS COMING OUT, I feel like I should edit every word that comes from my mouth. It’s a very difficult place to be, inside my head.)

But it’s the truth – I don’t know how I’m doing it all. Although I can say with certainty, I am not doing it all well most of the time. And I’m okay with that.

My house is messy, and my kids haven’t eaten what you might call nutritionally well rounded meals every day. Some of that is just summertime. I can’t be expected to keep up with all of their dietary needs three meals a day, every day when they’re home all the time with zero semblance of routine.

I just can’t.

And my house isn’t clean. It’s not a disaster. A little here and there every day means that the house is functional…but it wouldn’t pass Mary Poppins’ white glove test, either.

I can’t seem to find time to blog these days, and I really do miss it. But life, you know? It’s busy and full, and seriously my brain is in constant motion as I think about all the things I need to do to launch two books in the next twelve months.

I’m finishing writing one, while anticipating the edits for another. I’m formulating marketing plans, contest ideas, making connections and partnerships, preparing for a minor site redesign, and even tossing around writing a couple of ebooks to give away for free.

Because, you know – there’s too much down time in my days.

When I have a minute to sit still, I go through homeschool curriculum, and I’m familiarizing myself with the books and their formats. I have our first two weeks of lesson plans almost all filled out, and I’m wrapping my mind around how each day will operate when we officially start.

And in between all of that, I’m trying not to miss my kids. These days are just so hectic. Even if I wasn’t doing all of these other things on the side, though, not missing my kid’s summer days is a tough order. Because honestly, they don’t really want to sit around and hang out with me.

They want to be with friends and play games. They’re going to camp, and they’re swimming, and I’m happy they’re having so much fun. I don’t feel like I’m missing it. I’m sort of watching it from the periphery, and that’s okay.

So I have a survival plan in place, and somehow it’s all working. There are, however, a couple of pieces missing in my ultimate plan of survival. And these missing pieces are causing some problems.

Sleep and exercise. I’m tired, and sluggish. Both things need to improve, or I really won’t survive these next twelve months, no matter how airtight my plan may be. So I’m working on that.

This is all the challenge of motherhood and working. I’m not complaining – not by a long shot. My days are sweet and full, and for the most part I am enjoying them, even if I’m slightly overwhelmed. And truth be told, I know this won’t last long. These hectic days will be gone in an instant, and maybe I’ll miss them.

Or maybe I won’t.

I don’t really know, nor do I much care because today I have enough to think about. So I’m not going to worry if I’m doing too much or too little. I’m just going to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and crossing things off my never ending to-do list.

I’m just here for the ride.

Tell me, moms. How are you all doing with the crazy hectic fatigue of it all? How do you work sleeping, eating well, and exercise into your crazy packed days? I’m open to suggestions for how to make this all work. 

Living Creatively with Children

SAA154

Summertime is ripe for creativity. When I think of summer, I think of adventure and exploration, of trying new things, lazy mornings, books by the pool, and popsicles at all hours of the day.

Summer is for creating. It’s for stepping away from the every day mundane that dictated your life, and stepping into something new and exciting – even if only for a time.

I try to offer my children a long creative rope in the summer. If I’m honest, there are times when I wish we lived at the edge of the Wisconsin woods, but those times are only in the summer months when the Florida sun is merciless, and the flat terrain leaves little to the imagination. But then we have evenings like the one we had Friday night, where we swim as a family in the great, big ocean, and I decide Florida’s not so bad after all.

But I do long to see my kids explore. I wish I could send them into the trees with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a roll of toilet paper, and firm instructions to stay outside and enjoy this beautiful day.

I may not be able to shoo them outside for an entire day, but I can offer them plenty of places to escape. Exploration isn’t limited to the forest. It can happen right here inside the walls of our home. Here are a few tips for widening your children’s creative scope this summer.

livingcreatively

1.) Build Forts

Basically, when summertime rolls around, I take a deep breath and remind myself that it’s okay for the house to be messy. I like order. I really, REALLY like order.

But I have four children, so order is a laughable concept. Instead of sweating out the ever chaotic house, I choose to embrace it in the summer. And there is nothing more chaotic to me than a bedroom transformed into a fort – blankets strewn this way and that, kitchen chairs pulled into the room to hold up the “walls” of the fort.

It’s enough to give me an eye twitch.

But they love it. Reading books is boring…unless it’s done so lying back on a pile of pillows under the canopy of a bedroom fort.

If I’m willing to embrace the chaos, a bedroom fort is a heckuva way to celebrate summer.

SAA15

2.) Keep Painting Materials Handy

Like fort building, watercolor painting makes my heart race, and not in a good way. The paint brushes that need to be cleaned. The drips of paint that find their way to my countertops and floor, the gigantic “masterpieces” that I must find a way to display – it’s all stressful to this orderly Mama.

But…

The other day, my concrete, typically unimaginative second born pulled out the paints and tore off a giant piece of art paper, and she began to create. With her tongue stuck between her lips in quiet concentration, she dove into her painting, and when she was finished she held up her paper proudly.

It was gorgeous.

There’s something very calming and magical about putting a brush against the page. When the kids are arguing, painting is one of the first activities I suggest because is requires a deep breath…and minimal talking.

Win-Win.

SAA152

3.) Read Good Books

I don’t have readers. I wish that I did, but I simply do not. My children don’t like to read books. So I do what any good mother would do.

I bribe them.

Yes, I pay my children to read in the summer, but really I like to think I’m training them to enjoy the gift of words. There is nothing I love more than seeing my kids light up over a good story. And so we spend time in the library during the summer where they’re given the freedom to choose their own adventure.

This discipline of reading is two-fold, as I must also make myself slow down and read with them. I want to show them the beauty of getting lost in story, so I read as much as I can in the summer.

As much as I love reading, slowing down myself to do so is harder than it seems it should be, because usually when they’re still and quiet, my first response is to start cleaning up some of the messes.

LET THE MESSES GO!

That is my summertime mantra.

SAA153

Summertime can be stressful with everyone home at once, all the live-long day. This is where our Summertime Agenda of Awesome comes in handy, as well as a willingness to let go of my need for order and control.

A little bit of chaos has the potential to produce some magical days. I’m looking for the magic this year.

Are you?

First and Last and Bittersweet

We say goodbye to elementary school today. It’s bittersweet. As Sloan prepares to head to Middle School, and I plan to homeschool Tia and Landon, I find myself nostalgic a bit. I have loved their school. I leave with no hard feelings. In fact, loving the school is what made the decision to homeschool so difficult.

A lot has happened since the kids started this school year.

Where once there were only three of them:

IMGP9854

Now there are four!

Last Day 2

Where once Sloan had no braces:

 

First Day

Now he’s a metal mouth!

LastDay3

 

Tia’s has gone from this (those shorts don’t even come close to fitting her now!):

First Day 2

 

To this:

LastDay4

And Landon had teeth when he started school!

First Day3

LastDay5

It’s been a heckuva a year. I’m looking forward to the next year. It will be challenging, yes. But I have a feeling it’s going to be full of so much fun.

Now, BRING ON SUMMER!

When Fighting the Good Fight is Hard

She walks out of the bathroom and looks at me imploringly, asking without saying a word, and knowing my answer without really having to be told.

Hanging her head, she trudges to her room and pulls a rash guard on over her two piece bathing suit, then heads out to swim.

This was our compromise. She so desperately wanted a bikini, and I caved, but on one condition: She only wears it at home when it’s our family. If anyone else is over, or she goes to a friend’s house, she wears a swim shirt.

Tiawalkover2

This has been a tough rule for me to implement, if I’m being honest. Really tough. And I’ve caved on occasion, which isn’t fair to her. But the battle wears me out, because while I do see the value in teaching my daughter modesty, I also understand the struggle that she faces, especially living in a state when it’s bathing suit season year round.

It’s almost true what she tells me: Everyone she knows wears two pieces. And at nine years old, when she’s oblivious to sexuality, teaching modesty is a difficult concept. At this age, it simply boils down to obedience. I require her compliance on this issue even though she doesn’t understand.

“Why does it matter if I show off my body?” she asks. “People don’t really care about looking at me.”

Oh, but my daughter, they do.

It complicates matters when she’s a gymnast, and at nine years old has a body that is envious. Toned and lean, she doesn’t look like most nine year olds, and it makes her dad shudder to think what she’ll look like at 16.

So we fight the fight, even though it’s hard and it doesn’t make sense, but sometimes the boundary lines get muddied, and I stumble over myself, and I can’t find the balance.

“Well, if I’m going to my friend’s house, and it’s just going to be us girls, can I wear my two piece then?” This is where the battle heats up, because why not? Why can’t she if it’s just going to be the girls at a friend’s house? But then the envelope gets pushed even further.

“Well, we’re going to the beach, but it’s just with my friends who are girls, so can I wear my bikini?”

Round and round we go with me bringing bathing suit after bathing suit home for her to try on. Tankini’s and cute one pieces. Fun rash guards that are bright colors. Everything I can do to show her that wearing a bikini is not the only way to have a good time in the sun.

It’s a battle I’m willing to fight, but I admittedly get tired. I grow weary with the constant asking, the forever boundary pushing, and she’s only nine. We have a long way to go.

But I believe it’s a worthy battle. I really do. In a world that defines women by how they look, I want my daughter to have confidence that her bikini body isn’t what’s most important.

And fitting in, though so very compelling, isn’t all that important, either.

I want her to respect her body, and not to define herself against a culture that says more skin means more beautiful.

That being said, what I won’t do is tell her to cover herself in order to help the boys control themselves. It’s not her job to try to control a boy’s physical impulses.

But she can respect their struggle. And she can respect herself.

The truth is, deep down I don’t have a huge problem with two piece bathing suits. Two piece or one pice, a bathing suit leaves little to the imagination, and I think there are plenty of cute two pieces that don’t look like little swaths of lingerie.

But I can predict the future, and I know that if a boundary line isn’t set now, at nine, then when she is sixteen and her body is everything that terrifies her father, it will be too late. The battle for modesty starts today, even if her young mind cannot grasp the importance or significance of the issue.

So every time she comes out with wide, imploring eyes, I offer her a smile and a wink, then toss her the rash guard and remind her that she is precious and beautiful, and it’s okay to be different.

I also bought her a cute tankini that shows a tiny strip of her abdomen.

Compromise. This is the key to winning the good fight.

This post is not at all meant to be an indictment on anyone who allows their daughter to wear a two piece. This is the struggle that we face as a family based on things that we feel are important to us. I am not in any way condemning or laying guilt on those who choose differently.

Subscribe to receive a FREE excerpt from the award winning Like A River From Its Course!

You have Successfully Subscribed!